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Summary: It takes a lot to be a lawyer, and there are definite downsides to the profession. Check out this article for 10 of the most egregious negatives to being a lawyer.
Whoever first said “Every job has its problems,” indirectly gave us sage advice.
Of all the professions known in the working world, each will invariably have its negatives and positives.
It is for this reason that law falls far from immunity due to its own negatives, and for those who enter the profession, these negatives can define if they are built to be a lawyer.
With that in mind, learn what the 10 worst things are about being a lawyer.
Because our society is governed by laws, it’s a given that our society needs lawyers. It really doesn’t matter who a person is or what a person does, at some time in their lives they will need a lawyer.
Maybe this is why you’re thinking of becoming or why you became a lawyer. Maybe you were attracted to the ability to help people, or the importance of being in a legal profession.
Maybe the tease of prestige and money became too much to bear, which is why you are now completing law school and preparing for the bar.
Regardless of the reasons why you are pursuing law, it is important to know that in law there are definite downsides to the profession.
And these are real downsides, mind you, because honestly no one likes long work hours, stress or unwavering competition.
Nevertheless, these are only part of the negatives of the legal practice that you need to know about and ask yourself if you can withstand once you begin your legal career.
A recent publication featured on The Balance.com explores the 10 worst things about being a lawyer that every attorney should be aware of hopefully before they invest themselves too heavily into law.
Can you withstand the stress?
There are a whole host of stresses that come with being a lawyer.
Deadlines, billing pressures, client demands, long hours, changing laws, and other demands all combine to make the practice of law one of the most stressful jobs out there.
Throw in rising business pressures, evolving legal technologies and climbing law school debt to give you an even more intense stress storm.
With that, it’s needless (or possibly needful) to state that the demands of practicing law continue to fuel high levels of career dissatisfaction among members of the bar.
Mix in the very real dangers of depression and suicide and their commonality among lawyers, and it’s no wonder 44% of attorneys recently surveyed by the American Bar Association said they would not recommend the profession to a young person.
How about the long hours? Can you withstand those?
Rising workloads and shrinking staffs are translating into more work hours for lawyers than has ever been realized.
Lawyers who work for global law practices can expect demands that they be made available to clients around the clock.
Given that, 50-hour work weeks for lawyers are not uncommon. This is of course due to the unrelenting competitive nature of the business, which in turn has forced lawyers to spend more time on client development and business management activities in addition to billing hours.
Many lawyers complain of a lack of work-life balance as a result, as they should.
Can you absorb the law school debt you will incur?
The cost of a law school education has outpaced inflation in recent years. Tuition at even mediocre law schools can reach well over $40,000 annually. To that end, entering a practice with a six-figure law school debt is not uncommon.
Unless a new grad is placed in a top-tier law firm and making the topmost money an associate can, young lawyers often don't earn enough to repay their law school debt, particularly in today's cutthroat job market.
Because of this, it is understandable as to why a law degree is no longer considered a ticket to financial security.
Can you compete in a competitive legal job market?
Today’s lawyers face one of the bleakest job markets in history. Record numbers of jobs have been cut and salaries have plummeted but law schools aren't dialing back on their enrollment or their costs.
In fact, some lawyers have been forced to settle for less-than-ideal employment or to change careers altogether.
A steady supply of lawyers coupled with declining demand has caused many legal professionals to rethink the value of their law degrees as well as the legal profession.
Can you sustain yourself if clients aren’t spending as much?
Clients, whether they are individuals or multi-national corporations, have become more conscious of their legal spending.
After years of seeing billing hikes that far exceeded inflation, many legal clients demand more value for their dollars. This forces lawyers to lower their billing rates while they still take on insurmountable workloads.
The market will no longer pay top dollar for expensive lawyers to perform tasks that can be accomplished more cheaply, quickly and efficiently by technology, online services, wholesale-type lawyering businesses or paralegals.
Can you endure the continual changes in law?
The practice of law is changing dramatically and lawyers no longer have a monopoly on the field.
From legal document technicians to virtual law offices and self-help legal websites, today’s lawyers face competition from a variety of non-lawyer sources.
This isn't to say that all these sources are necessarily reputable or that they can deliver the same results that a trained and educated attorney can provide – particularly the sources located overseas.
However, those sources are still out there and they do divert many potential clients away from "real" attorneys.
Will you understand the technology within law?
Technology has transformed the practice of law and, like it or not, if you want to be in the legal profession, you will have to know your way around a computer, the internet and everything else associated with this new era of legal service.
Included in this are document review and management tools, spreadsheets, presentations, and billing software.
And even as lawyers become more tech-savvy, the market trend toward commoditization threatens to swallow jobs as lawyers are replaced by technology to deliver legal services more cheaply and efficiently.
Can you withstand the outsourcing of legal processes?
It’s not a trend — the outsourcing of legal work to foreign countries is an economic reality. As more legal work is sent to low-wage workforces overseas or to regional delivery centers onshore, many traditional lawyer jobs are being eroded or displaced altogether.
The caveat to this is these overseas services tend to provide subpar products, and in a detail-oriented profession such as American law that relies on clear American English, the briefs, depositions and other documentation are often times poorly represented.
Better luck will probably be had with regional delivery centers, but honestly, there are no guarantees.
The fact is this: A real lawyer who writes their own documents can never be replaced.
Meanwhile the problem is this: Legal outsourcing is real, but if done poorly, attorneys will bill for lost hours, which in turn can hurt an attorney’s reputation with current and future clients.
Will you be able to deal with the poor public images lawyers tend to receive?
So the joke goes like this: “What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?”
“You call them ‘A good start.’”
This opinion amplifies the low public perception of lawyers that's still prevalent in today’s society and most likely will be present in the future.
Although widespread distrust of lawyers has existed since ancient times, rising billing rates, frivolous lawsuits, and sensational news stories of lawyers behaving badly do little to raise the public image of attorneys.
Will you be able to represent clients you personally can’t stand?
It’d be nice to do so, but no, you won't be able to pick and choose which clients you take on, at least not if you want to make a living.
People who need lawyers don't represent a single, simple demographic. They might be wealthy and sophisticated but at the same time you should expect them to also be arrogant and exacting.
Other clients might be homeless and accused of a crime that they did or did not actually commit, while another subset may be anti-societal, murderous, have blood on their hands and be as guilty as sin.
You won't like all of them but you'll have to give your best representation to each and every one regardless.
So the question is how tolerant are you of people you just don't like? Can you put your personal feelings aside to get the job done?
If not, then being a lawyer is not the profession for you.
From almost every angle, the practice of law can be a challenge. Difficult cases, difficult clients, difficult juries at the day’s end, the difficulty of a law firm alone can pose a pressure cooker that the average worker may not endure.
The problem is for a lawyer, the stresses never start then stop with a case’s or client’s difficulty. The issues can funnel downward into the very core of the profession, making it a potential 50-hour hell each and every week.
At least that’s the opinion of 44% of today’s lawyers. New lawyers just starting in the legal business should gain some solace in knowing there’s another 56% of attorneys who are in the profession and sticking with it.
If you truly do or think you will enjoy the legal profession, kudos to you. Just consider the 10 worst things about being a lawyer that are mentioned in this article and decide with yourself whether or not you can hack what these 10 worst things can bring.
If you can you are not only a lawyer, you’re also a survivor.
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